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Denmark: Court Ruling on Genocide Law

(June 7, 2011) On June 1, 2011, Denmark's 1955 genocide law was ruled not applicable to the prosecution of foreigners for genocidal acts committed outside Denmark. The Roskilde Court, located north of Copenhagen, issued the ruling in the case of a Rwandan being tried in Denmark for allegedly heading a death squad and participating in the slaughter of 25,000 Tutsis in one Rwandan town in April 1994. (Denmark Can Not Try Genocide Abroad, RADIO NETHERLANDS WORLDWIDE (June 1, 2011); Lov nr. 132 af 29.04.1955 om straf for folkedrab [Law No. 132 of Apr. 29, 1955, for the Punishment of Genocide], English and Danish texts available from the Prevent Genocide International website (last visited June 6, 2011).)

The court found that there is “no basis on which to assume that there is a legal basis in Denmark to prosecute foreigners charged with having committed genocide in another country.” (Julian Isherwood, Danish Court Says Genocide Law Cannot Be Used Against Rwandan Suspect, POLITIKEN.DK (June 1, 2011), World News Connection online subscription database, Doc. No. 201106011477.1_b01c004bda4602af.)

Although in the Rwandan case the prosecutors had been arguing in favor of such extra-territorial application of the genocide law and Justice Minister Lars Barfoed supports that view, Andreas Laursen of the Public Prosecutor's office has published a book in which he argues the law “is restricted to crimes committed in Denmark,” even though that “restricts the law's practical application.” (Id.)

Despite the court ruling on the genocide law, the defendant will still face criminal charges in Denmark resulting from allegations of killing individuals. (Id.)